DWP digital chief picks AI, data sharing, and digital identity as 2019 priorities

Written by Sam Trendall on 10 January 2019 in News
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Interim CDIO Simon McKinnon provides insight into department's agenda for the year ahead

Photo: DWP/Open Government Licence v3.0

The new chief digital and information officer of the Department for Work and Pensions has picked out the use of data, digital identities, and artificial intelligence as his three top priorities for the year ahead.

Simon McKinnon (pictured above) was recently appointed as interim CDIO, replacing outgoing digital chief Mayank Prakash, who left the civil service at the end of 2018. A recruitment process to replace Prakash on a full-time basis was launched last month.

In a blog post outlining his plans for the coming months, McKinnon – who was recently awarded a CBE in the New Year Honours – said he was “particularly excited” about the DWP’s work in the area of digital identity assurance.


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“This isn’t solely about one-time verification of credentials. It is about proportionality,” he said. “It is about continuous authentication. It is about building a holistic understanding of digital personas and intelligent real-time decision-making for every transaction, based on context and behaviours and building trust.”

Artificial intelligence was the second focus area picked out by McKinnon, who claimed the department is already using the technology “in some exciting ways”. In 2019 the DWP will work on “finding new ways to exploit our data to make things easier for our customers”, he said.

Making better use of its own data – and the data the department can take in from other agencies – was the third priority picked out by the new CDIO.

“We need to take advantage of the data that we hold in DWP and can access from other departments to build better solutions,” McKinnon said. “In the last year, we have worked with colleagues from NHS Digital, HMRC, Home Office, MoJ and others in building better user experiences.”

The interim tech chief, who previously led the digital delivery of children’s, health, and pensions services, also paid tribute to the work of his predecessor in bringing back in-house many technology services that were previously provided by external suppliers. He also paid tribute to Prakash’s efforts in driving the use of agile development and design thinking methods.

“We now need to continue to improve the services we provide, build closer relationships with our colleagues across the department, and drive through the digitisation of DWP’s services,” McKinnon said.

He added: “In DWP Digital we’ve got all the necessary foundations in place to successfully deliver our digital transformation ambitions. For me, the number-one component to this success is the skills, commitment and enthusiasm of our colleagues. I’m inspired every day by watching great teams work together to solve problems creatively, truly motivated by the important underlying cause of their work.”

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